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Springsteen and I: Film Review

Bruce Springsteen Fan Photos Elvis - H 2013
Bruce Springsteen jamming with an Elvis impersonator in "Springsteen and I"

The Bottom Line

Heartfelt doc is by and for the superfans


July 22 (NCM Fathom Events)


Baillie Walsh

Fans from around the world collaborate on a love letter to The Boss.

If producers were to issue a call to the global community of, say, Bjork fans, asking them to collaborate on a film about their idol, one imagines they'd receive a trove of quirky animations, microcosmic art films and elfin poetry.

When you make the same request of Bruce Springsteen fans, though, you get something straight from the heart -- unadorned expressions of love, stories about life-changing concerts and songs that said exactly what the listener felt at the moment it most needed saying. Baillie Walsh's Springsteen and I gathers these homemade tributes into an effusive feature that will resonate with the kind of die-hard Boss fans who helped make it, but quickly grows tiresome for the less devout among us. Fathom's special-event screenings are the smartest way to put the doc in theaters; DVD sales and rentals will rely on those who own every B-side and have tour T-shirts dating back to the '80s.

Composed almost entirely of fan-produced material, the film's visuals are generally crude, often shot on phones. Men and women -- mostly, but not exclusively, middle-aged and white -- speak to the camera in living rooms, from behind the wheel while driving, or at the site of a memorable concert and try to describe what the songwriter means to them. Expressions of freakish devotion pop up occasionally -- as with a woman who recalls training her newborn to associate a picture of Springsteen with the word "daddy" -- but the focus is on saner characters who simply respond to the music and admire the entertainer's loyalty and tirelessness.

STORY: Top Five Moments from 'Springsteen and I'

Many participants speak of remarkable encounters -- the Elvis impersonator who got himself pulled onstage for a King-meets-Boss duet; the busker who saw Springsteen walking down the street and got him to join in for a fifteen-minute concert; the tourist who was trudging up to his nosebleed Madison Square Garden seats when a member of Springsteen's tour crew randomly gave him front-row tickets.

The stories all speak to the star's famous identification with the working-class Joes who've supported him for decades, and occasional bits of concert footage capture the live energy fans cherish. Ranging from a '70s-shot black-and-white video of "Growin' Up" to the present day, this live material may not be the point of the film, but it's welcome -- as is (if only to break the monotony) the single interview with a nonfan, the good-humored husband of a superfan who has traveled with her to tour stops all across Europe and enjoyed everything except the marathon concerts.

Production Company: Black Dog Films

Director: Baillie Walsh

Producer: Svana Gisla

Executive producers: Ridley Scott, Alfred Chubb, Liza Marshall, Jack Arbuthnott, Terry Shand, Geoffrey Kempin

Editor: Ben Harrex

No rating, 78 minutes